Things I don’t understand: Follow Your Passion

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The other day, I realized that my parents never actually advised me to “follow my passions.” In fact, it often seemed that they would advise the contrary. An instance that jumps to mind was when I was confirming my final course choices for the International Baccalaureate (IB) in high school. All my classes had been accounted for, except for my seventh class, would I choose art or physics? Now it was apparent to my counselor that I wanted to choose art. I chose Physics. Why? Because my parents preferred knowing that I had a good solid ‘background’ which would keep doors open. It did come in handy later for my university science requirements, but beyond that I didn’t maintain much connections with physics after high school.

Now why am I mentioning this story? Once I got to Canada, I was suddenly being bombarded with messages dictating that I pursue happiness and that a job that isn’t related to my passion is a useless job. There is some truth to the whole “follow your passion.” I have worked—like many others—a job that I despised. I would dread going to work three days ahead of time (it was a part-time job) and I would count down the number of shifts until I quit. In fact, I also hate my current job and I am also thinking of quitting.  Having gone through these two experiences, I would never recommend someone to stick to a job that causes them great anxiety, misery and which they absolutely despise.

But, there are many jobs out that there are just “meh.”  As in they are okay. They aren’t bad but you are not absolutely in looooove with them. You might just like them.

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Once, I was speaking with a friend about my first contract, at Company A and when I explained what I did, she commented on how I didn’t seem enthused about it. Now this incidence did not happen only once … but thrice. I don’t get it! Am I supposed to do a song and dance when I speak about work? Is every single job I do supposed to be a dream job? For me, the answer is no. Meh jobs are good. Meh jobs are great when you are starting out a career.

On that note, I will be starting a series of posts on why I feel that “Follow your passion” is not necessarily the best piece of advice out there.

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I’m back :)

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Ok, I have been gone for a minute; well not literally, because it is just another expression to say that I have not written in a while.  So where was I?

First off, I would like to apologize. There is a part of me that feels this crippling guilt for not updating this blog more frequently- not in fear that I was disappointing readers, but rather because I really want to use this blog as a platform to push my writing, and to a certain extent, my creativity, in a certain direction. Yet, there was this other part of me, the perfectionist me, that was afraid of uploading a post with less than perfect grammar. That was afraid that updating my blog meant putting less time into job-hunting and so that was afraid of so many more things.

Therefore, I am going to treat this blog as my personal challenge to become a better content creator, to un-learn the stodgy rules of academic papers and to rant about my ‘feels’ for unemployment. And I want to start by cleaning up the blog– posting the posts that I promised I would, learning to customize the design, learning the backend of the blogosphere, and most importantly, scheduling my posts.

In the past month, I have started yet another contract position, to explore the industry of agriculture (if confused, please check this post out). The first two weeks went well with me appreciating certain aspects of the job and disliking others. Somehow, this descended into a strong dislike for the position, and a persistent questioning of where I stand vis-a-vis my ambitious goals: “Look at X, Y, Z they got jobs in reputable places, doing reputable things while I am still stuck typing in data for this agriculture firm. What do I want to do with my life? Why am I not finding a permanent job? I need to push harder.”

After getting four of my wisdom teeth extracted last Thursday– oh yeah, that happened– and getting two sick days off, this Sunday evening I am toying with the idea of asking for yet another day off. Thoughts of Monday rolling around fill me with anxiety, a stress for too little time to wrap up random errands, and a dread for going back and punching numbers. I now realize that it may not be smart to talk about this publicly on the internets; thus, I shall stop there.

Of course, I want to mention that there are some things that I appreciate at my position, which is more adequately put in a list form:

  • I appreciate that I get paid the equivalent of an entry level marketing assistant’s yearly salary… for punching in numbers.
  • I appreciate the sorta-egalitarian treatment of the workers. Of course, as a contractor, taking personal time off, means catching up every single hour that was meant to be worked (like why!?!) BUT
  • Unlike organizations where I have previously worked, every worker had a security access card to the building that worked after-hours. Everyone has a work email and access to the programs that they need for free. You, as the worker, are provided with a work computer (yes, some organizations with big budgets don’t provide that). You are given the same swag as everyone else. You have an hour long lunch (I live for lunch breaks). Oh and you are paid.  Yes, I am talking about unpaid interns.

So that is it for me. I am saying good-bye to that attitude that kept me away from blogging. I think the last bullet point would make a good blogpost. What do you reckon?

Love, S.

inCOnSistEncY

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Hey blogosphere,

So, I haven’t written in a really long time. Yeah, [insert awkwardness here]. Anyways, I have been working on some blog posts– including one on my first impressions of Canada which could take a while before it is posted. However, in the meanwhile, I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer and I, instead, wanted to talk about communicating what you are looking for.

Recently, I completed a three month research contract for Company A which left me, as we say in French, déboussolée.  I guess the term would roughly translate to desoriented but the difference is that déboussolé etymologically has the root word boussole, which means compass. Therefore, for me, it conveys losing the path that was set by the compass.

Anyways, prior to the position at Company A, I had completed all the exercises in What Colour is Your Parachute? by Richard Bolles and I felt that I knew what types of jobs I wanted. Nonetheless I feel that I have changed ever since taking this position and that most of my self-reflection may no longer be accurate– leading to a problem of people perceiving me as inconsistent.

How is it that one minute, I state that I want “business development, marketing or market research positions” and the next I apply for a job in a seemingly random industry– agriculture? Okay, I didn’t apply for an agriculture position, but, you need to understand that I have to keep this blog as anonymous as possible; hence, I will not mention the actual industry where I sent in an application.

How is it that I am considering doing a Masters in Management but that I am working all over the place? Where is the consistent narrative in my past work experience? Why the lack of directions? If I really want to be a management consultant, why don’t I just apply for that?

I find this perceived bias incredibly frustrating– even more so than the stupid questions, students ask recent graduates. There are two ways, I could explain this : first, I could backtrack and explain my randomness or I could explain why the idea of inconsistency is frustrating.

Stick with me here and I will explain both.

My dream job is as a management consultant for Firm X. However, finding an entry level position in consulting is incredibly difficult, not only, because they want you to have experience from renown companies, but also because if you do get extended an offer, your application will not be evaluated for two years. That’s right! You are basically black-listed for TWO years. Let’s be honest. It freaks me out that I could accidentally lock myself out from my dream job for the next two years. Therefore, I never applied.

Moving onto the Masters thing. A Masters in Management is not equivalent to a Masters in Business Administration (MBA); the former is a one year program that students from non-business backgrounds can use to strengthen their business acumen and add prestige to their resume. Considering that such a program offers both practical, hands on business knowledge and networking opportunities, I think that it is an attractive option if I want to go into my dream job.

Then where did the biz dev, marketing and research come from? Until I get myself together to apply for either the Masters program or the consulting positions, each of these options present an alternative, and, dare I say, more accessible entry level career. As a Political Science graduate, I have been trained to be an analytical, problem-solving, kick ass communicator. Marketing is about connecting brands with consumers and biz dev is connecting firms with future markets (ie for consumers).  During my  undergrad, I conducted original research and sat through a boring seminar about methodology. I actually want to learn stats and I have an interest in it.

Meanwhile, the agriculture position all started because I feel in love with a firm that offered a Recent Graduate Rotation program wherein, the graduate would work in a variety of arenas while being prepared for a position that is analytical by nature.

To summarize, I am a people-oriented communicator who enjoys work that is analytical (includes problem-solving) and non-repetitive.

Most of all, this consistency issue annoys me because it essentializes humans. As an avid reader and a social sciences student, I know that humans are complex and that their behaviours do not always fall within the good/bad dichotomy. We all wish we were “good;” however, we know that facing situations of great adversity we may do shitty things. I find that economy as a discipline, often reduces humans to a set of simple maxims. It is perfectly normal that, as complex creatures, we have diverse interests and that we do not necessarily breathe solely for one type of industry. So yep, I may seem inconsistent but from where I am standing, I am damn proud of my complexity.

xox, S.

Quick Post: On being in a limbo

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Hey my invisible readers,

So I have to be honest. I haven’t really been feeling like writing in this blog mostly because I feel like shit. Yes, I feel terrible. This aren’t new feelings and neither are they abnormal according to psychological studies on unemployed people’s wellness (and this article).  Nor am I suffering from a lack of inspiration: I have so many ideas for blogposts and so much to share out there.

I feel that what is blocking me from writing is whether my feelings are valid. As you may have guessed from my previous posts some of my closest friends have not finished their studies yet and therefore, are somewhat oblivious to the pain of unemployment. There is a person, let’s call her Adeline, who found a job in two weeks– a corporate job in two weeks– who therefore, feels qualified to dole out advice. Mind you she found this job within two weeks of finishing classes. Not even graduation. Just classes.  All of these factors beg the question: “Am I normal?” Is it just that I am not trying hard enough? Why is it that I simultaneously seek and dread the word, “networking.”

I know that it is often recommended not to compare oneself to others, yet, part of me thinks that it is inevitable; we have been compared to each other since we are children. Who has the best toy? Who is the brightest? Who is the cutest? etc etc etc. Unemployment removed my points of references and the whole “have you found a job yet?” is an inadequate goalpost because one can progress in their search without scoring the holy grail of contracts.

Anyways, this post was about everything and nothing. I just wanted to mention why I am not as motivated to write.

That’s it from me, xox. S

The graduate | student divide: The root causes of Bitchassness

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So earlier I wrote about how sometimes, university students can say really mean things to recent graduates (read post here). I wanted to be fair and discuss the root causes for the insensitive comments. Now I could go into market research/public opinion research mode and create a short survey — but ain’t nobody got time for that!

Instead I will use myself as an example. You see, when I was a student I was exactly like many of  people I described in the previous blogpost. I judged people for not finding jobs and if they were working a Jill job, I judged them for doing something ‘beneath’ them. Needless to say that in my time on the job market radically changed my mind and that now I recognize that there is dignity in any position, and that one’s job does not define their future jobs or their intellectual capacities.

So how do we  get to the point of being so critical of each other? To the point of being so bitchy? My answer is that we are surrounded by myths from a young age that do not get addressed before we have graduated.

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Myth :  Get good grades at school, go to a good university and get good grades there and then you will get a job. Eventually, you will buy your own house, get married and have kids.

Reality: We should be telling people to mind the gap between university and entering the professional workforce. For many people, the reality looks more like this:

Go to school –> get good grades –> go to university –> intern/volunteer/ work x repeat throughout degree –> | unemployment| –> get the job that you were hoping for.

Canadian statistics say that on average  88 percent of graduates are employed within six months of graduation (but that could really mean any job. I was employed within four months of graduation but it was not permanent). However, most people will have found a position within two years of graduation. And unemployment doesn’t only happen to Arts students; as the comic series Wasted Talent illustrates, engineers can also go through unemployment. In fact, I know an engineer who has been unemployed for, at least, two years.  All of this is to say, that the relationship between university and the workforce is not that evident.  Finding a job is not something that happens instantaneously. I, and several of my other peers, thought that we would all score positions within one month of graduation. Yep, that expectation got rapidly revised.

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Myth: We should only admire people who managed to get a job offer before graduation. If you haven’t gotten one before graduation then you failed. If you are working a McJob, then you truly, and utterly are doing nothing with your degree.

Reality: Even when people intern and volunteer, they may not be aware that the summer of third year is when most of the recruitment occurs for job offers extended before graduation. They may not feel confident enough to apply to companies that could offer that type of security. And some companies, such as, management consulting firms,  blacklist you for two years, if you fail their recruitment process–which can serve as a very powerful dissuasion method for a university student. The student may also be going through some personal, financial or other type of problems preventing them from applying. So to summarize, people may not participate in the graduate student recruitment process because of a) lack of awareness, b) lack of confidence or perceived skills mismatch and c) miscellaneous reasons.

Therefore, it is not fair to expect all students to have secured a job before graduation. Now about the Jill job. People have bills to pay. A monthly pass in my city, Vancouver, costs 91 dollars a month, the equivalent to a full day of labour at a $12/hour position.  In some cases, people also have to start repaying their loans, or maybe they have to pay rent or maybe their phone bill. As recent graduates, we no longer get student discounts (unless we cheat our way to get them) and so the fiscal responsibilities suddenly start appearing. Can you really blame someone for trying to make ends meet? And even if that person doesn’t need a Jill job, can you blame them for deciding to structure their time instead of facing unending hours of agony?

From a young age, we are taught to admire prestige– prestige is the unattainable. It represents you being the creme de la creme. We admire the high school students who are valedictorian in their class, do a plethora of extra-curriculars and remain popular in their school.  Prestige heightens a sense of accomplishments. However, the truth is that it should not be that way. Jobs do not define a person’s worth or contributions to the community and if they do, like Barbara Ehrenreich who wrote Nickel and Dimed said,

“[t]he ‘working poor’… are in fact the major philanthropists of our society. They neglect their own children so that the children of others will be cared for; they live in substandard housing so that other homes will be shiny and perfect; they endure privation so that inflation will be low and stock prices high. To be a member of the working poor is to be an anonymous donor, a nameless benefactor, to everyone else.”

Being critical of one’s thoughts is difficult ; yet, remembering that everyone has dignity in their line of work has helped me immensely in my interactions with others.

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Myth: Grades matter.

Reality: Only sometimes. Some jobs, such as management consulting, commercial banking or investment banking, will truly care about your grades. In fact, my last position at Company 1, was in none of those fields, yet they asked me to send an unofficial transcript along with the rest of my application. Nonetheless, many other positions do not require grades. In fact, now that I think of it, I do not really see how grades always demonstrate ability. In certain classes, the top marks were given to those who knew what appealed to the professor’s taste and not to those who thought most critically.

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Of course, there are many other myths that could be addressed. I think that The Travelling Epicurean does an excellent job of addressing them in his/her blogpost called “What College Never Taught You.” I hope that this blog post started unravelling some of the root causes for the division between university students and recent graduates. At the end of the day, the short answer is that students have not woken up and smelt the coffee.

That’s it from me. xox S.

 

The graduate | student divide

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So, I hesitated to write a post relating to this question. When I asked around my social group on whether I should post this or not, I got very mixed responses. I know this is a controversial topic and maybe I just took other people’s comments/questions too seriously. However, I feel that maybe there are other people out there who are facing the exact same issue.

Is there really a gap between recent graduates’ and students’ perceptions of employment? On the one hand, I feel that the answer should be no; we are from the same generation and we face the same problems of high expectations during university, unpaid internships, and more elusive entry-level opportunities . Furthermore, the majority of my friends are still completing their degrees and they have been really supportive while I am job-hunting.

On the other hand, personal experiences points to great differences between being a university student and an (un)employed (recent) graduate. Now, once again, I have friends who are still university students that they were extremely supportive. Nonetheless, I had many acquaintances/friends who really had a lot bitchassness. Yeah, I’m salty! And I want to write about this because I know I used to be one of those bitchass people when I met recent graduates.

Here are some sample bitchassery questions:

  1. Did you find a job yet?
  2. Have you applied to any jobs? Where? How many jobs have you applied to?
  3. What do you do all day? So you do nothing?
  4. I found a survival job in two weeks. What is taking you so long?
  5. Uhm, I don’t know. Network?
  6. Oh why don’t I try to talk to you about job opportunities that you have no interest in but never ask you what you actually want to do. (There is a difference between this and actually giving advice)

First, unemployment is a purgatory an experience that one needs to live through in order to understand. The implications of not finding a job are not the same when you are in university (no money, no money for tuition, nothing to put on resume, nothing to keep me busy for this period of 4 months) and when you have graduated (really nothing to keep me busy, bills, bills, loans, parents breathing down my neck about expenses, lower self-esteem).  So, unless you have witness, been through or are going through prolonged unemployment, it may be hard to make judgement calls.

As I mentioned before– and if I haven’t, I meant to mention this– I used to have a lot of bitchassness in me when speaking to recent graduates. Here are some tips to cure the bitchassness.

  • Don’t ask, “Have you found a job yet?” right before or right after “How are you?” In fact, don’t ask it at all.
  • Instead ask, “What have you been up to?” or “How are you?” Finding a job is very stressful and sometimes people are getting traction in their job searches but it is not manifesting as job offers. Or the simple fact that people are not defined by their jobs. Whether or not this person is currently employed, they still have a lot to contribute to your life and others’ communities. If you are looking to catch up, it may be better to ask open-ended questions and let them volunteer the information.
  • Unemployment is not equal to laziness. Some people think it is okay to ask you what you do all day– that’s rude. It is just rude. Often, people can’t find jobs not because, they are lazy or not trying hard enough; but because, their search has not yielded anything or they feel emotionally unmotivated.
  • Do take them out to do something. If this person is your friend, then now is the time to go take them out to do activities. It will probably allow the two of you to release tension from life. And of course, catch up!
  • Don’t give advice if you haven’t used it. Most of all, don’t be self-righteous about it. The guy who suggested that I did nothing while unemployed and that I should network, on the same night mind you, would probably struggle with networking. There are so many books written about networking and yet most people– even those, who are working– really dislike it. It is a struggle to understand how to make networking work for oneself. Don’t remind people of this lady.
  • Do listen. Let the person vent and take the time to understand their perspective. You don’t want to fall in the Bitchassery #6 category.
  • It is most likely that the graduate has applied to jobs online. Applying to jobs online has a low success rate and it is most of the times the first thing people do. So asking that question is, in my opinion, stupid.
  • Remember, people will always remember how you make them feel.

Ok, invisible readers, I think this blogpost is getting way too long but I hope that together we can stop the bitchassness pandemic and save relationships in the way.  Once again, this is not meant for everyone but rather for some people who do make people feel this way. I put plenty of links on the page, with information that will complement or contextualize the post. Hopefully, the comments don’t go crazy with hate/troll comments– but then who am I kidding? Almost no-one reads this blog. Shout out to my Japanese reader K <3.

That’s it from me. xox, S.

 

Edit: I wanted to add another do. Do connect people with other recent graduates or resources. Post-university life can strangely feel isolating and it is therefore, good to meet people facing the same challenges as you.